This month I’d like to honor Cecilia Fire Thunder, who has dedicated her life to her community and to advocating for women’s health and freedom from violence. Born at the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1946, she stayed close to her Lakota roots in spite of a school system that tried to suppress her culture and her family’s move away from their home. Fire Thunder grew up to become a woman of great strength and character, and has been a nurse, community leader and fierce advocate for the rights of women.
Fire Thunder was elected the first woman president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in 2004. In 2006 she made news as she promised to open a women’s reproductive health clinic on tribal land if the threatened abortion ban in South Dakota was passed. The ban was passed and subsequently overturned, but her bold and courageous action caused Fire Thunder to be impeached and removed from office. However, she did not lose the courage of her convictions and continues to work on behalf of the Lakota community and women’s rights.